This post was contributed by Kate Horstead, Policy and Influencing Officer, at our sister charity Age International.
2015 has been a landmark year for international development and for older people globally. The Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious framework agreed by and for all countries, has been adopted and will set the scene for policies and programmes around the world. Unlike its predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, Agenda 2030 recognises ageing and older people as an integral part of international development plans.
This is potentially a game-changer for older people globally, who currently face obstacles to claiming their rights to essential healthcare and social protection, to continue learning and working, to participate fully in cultural, social and political life, and to be protected from abuse and violence. For too long the needs of older people have been neglected, side-lined or ignored by international development policy makers. But in the SDGs, governments have made an over-arching pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’. To disregard people once they reach later life would be to undermine this all important commitment.
The SDG framework’s 17 goals and 169 targets outline expectations that improvements can be made in older people’s lives – in healthcare, nutrition, transport, and gender equality – no matter where they live. The SDGs apply equally to all countries, including the UK, and not just to developing countries.
In many areas, the language of the SDGs is strong, for example, ‘No goal will be considered met unless it is met for all social groups’. By necessity, this must include older people. Both in the goals and in the targets, there are many explicit references to women and men ‘of all ages’, in relation to health, nutrition, education, and to tackling poverty. Older people are also included implicitly in many more.
There is a solid commitment to monitoring the goals’ progress using better data than has previously been collected, data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographical location and other relevant characteristics.
We celebrate the potential of this framework, but we must not lose sight of the fact that much more needs to be done. Some of the suggested indicators for measuring the targets have the potential to discriminate against older people, for example only measuring violence against women until the age of 49, as if violence against older women isn’t worth measuring. UN Women agrees with us that this is unacceptable and has recommended that this discriminatory age limit be removed.
And while the indicators are being finalised, our biggest challenge is to ensure the SDGs are taken seriously, including by the UK government, and that its policies and programmes reflect the framework’s admirable aims. Countries which have invested so much in creating the SDGs must now focus on making the rhetoric a reality, for the sake of people at every stage of their lives.
Find out more about the importance of the global context for ageing policy in our Agenda for Later Life 2015 report, Age UK’s annual assessment of how public policy is meeting the needs of older people.